Posted in Expos, Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Life, Product Recommendations

For the First Time in Forever

No, I promise I’m not just another Frozen-obsessed enthusiast (though really that is partially true) but rather those are the words I heard uttered by a young visitor to the Gluten & Allergen-Free Expo last weekend. She was surveying tables filled with samples from “Enjoy Life” and she exclaimed “I can eat anything I want here and I don’t have to ask if it’s safe first….for, like the first time in forever!” I couldn’t agree more with that young girl’s enthusiastic assessment of last weekend’s Expo. For those of you have been reading my blog for awhile now, you remember that last year I described my weekend at the Allergen Expo as a fairy tale. Well, if I thought that was a fairy tale, I had no idea what the future had in store for me. I keep saying to my friends (only semi-jokingly) that I’m living my own Baltimore fairy tale at the moment…

I mean, my office is in a castle. I teach in a carriage house. I spend my days teaching teenage girls about God’s grace at work in their lives…and get paid to do it! I just spent a weekend with the service group leaders from my school having amazing conversations with inspirational young women who I have no doubt will set the world on fire in their own unique ways. I get to plan retreats and service experiences to bring a little light into the darker corners of Baltimore and expose my students to the idea that a world so vastly different from their own exists just a short 15-minute drive away. I’m celebrating the one-year anniversary of moving into my own apartment…and NOT having to move again for the first time in several years. And then last weekend, I got to walk around the Expo I described as a fairy tale a year ago as an official blogger. Seriously, I think I’ve uttered the phrase, “My life is so surreal right now” more in the past month than in all my 28 years combined.

This is where I work.
My office window is in the turret on the right…not the window that’s lit up in this one, but the one below it.
That sentence doesn’t even seem real…
(Photo courtesy of Chris Ferenzi Photography)
This is the view from my classroom door.
This is what happens when you teach in a Carriage House…

No, there simply aren’t words to explain the joy which filled that Convention Center last weekend and to do it justice. However, it’s my job to try and do just that…so I’ll see what I can do.

Now, many of you know that I deemed 2014 the Year of Love, and thus have been offering a variety of Love Shout-Outs since January. In an effort to keep with this theme, but not confuse anyone who may be counting, I decided to offer some “Sprinkles of Love” to some of the events, people, and products I found at last weekend’s Expo. I will write longer about some in the future…but for now, here is my attempt to share the joy of Secaucus with the masses.

Sprinkles of Love to:

1) The GFAF Expo team: Registration could not have been more seamless this year. Everything was prompt and everyone greeted you with a smile. I know it’s not easy to put on a production like this every few weeks…but team, you certainly made it look like a walk in the park!

2) DF Mavens Ice Cream: I could not be more sincere when I say this was the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Dairy-filled or not. They had clearly labeled soy-based, almond-based, and coconut-based options. Though I couldn’t try the soy-based option, I sampled all the others…and let me tell you, it was simply divine. So much so that I sent the photo below of my first cup to the Philanthropic Physicist with the message “I think I might actually be in heaven…” They’re based in New York City but have a great website to search for their products in local stores AND they even have A SHIP DIRECT TO YOUR HOME OPTION!!! (*cough, cough* My birthday is coming up in less than 4 months :-), and to top it all off, a portion of all their profits go to a non-profit organization called Mercy for Animals. Yes, I could not be more impressed with DFMavens. So, love sprinkles to you!

My little piece of heaven…

3) Mo’Pweeze Bakery: The name seems odd, right? Well, the reasoning behind it is downright adorable. This family-based bakery was inspired by a mom’s desire to provide delicious treats for her allergy-ridden family, especially her son who now has 19 different food allergies! The name comes from his small-child attempt to say “More, please!” after tasting his first allergy-free treat. Insert heart melt here. Aside from the precious story behind this company, their treats could not be more delicious! I tasted both the banana walnut cupcake and chocolate raspberry before purchasing some to take home…and coercing my mom and sister into joining me in the Buy 3, Get 1 Free deal they had that weekend. Last but not least, these men and women could not have been more pleasant, upbeat, and enthusiastic about what they do! Plus, they seemed almost as excited as me to be part of the Expo. Almost 🙂 And the best news for you?? They deliver nationwide. Take my word for it: Check out Mo’Pweeze Bakery!

4) PASCHA Chocolate: I honestly can’t even type this without getting absurdly excited. I turned the corner at the fair to see a display of chocolate bars. Assuming this would be something I couldn’t enjoy, I kept walking…until I saw the sign that read “free from peanuts, nuts, dairy, soy, eggs, wheat & gluten”. I stopped. I read it again. I tried to prepare myself for the disappointment I was sure would be inevitable when I asked about corn. The only ingredients? Cocoa, sugar, cocoa butter, and corn-free vanilla. Be still my chocolate-loving heart. You better believe I sampled every variety…at least once. AND to top it all off, there was a coffee-flavored bar. That’s right. Someone thought to put coffee grinds in a Katie-safe chocolate bar. I still don’t have words. Other than to say I purchased several bars before I left that weekend…including the very last coffee one they had with them. Oh, and I should also mention they deliver. And it’s all certified fair trade. I still don’t believe it either but I know where I’m buying chocolate from now on:

5) Namaste Foods: This is a brand I was already very familiar with. My mom makes pancakes for me with this mix when I go home to the Poconos, my sister made cookies using their mix for our family BBQ in August, and I have their muffin mix in my cabinet as we speak (well, as I type and you read I suppose). They were sampling their Blondie Mix at the fair…and it was as amazing as I expected. Look for their products…you won’t be sorry! 

6) Gluten Free Gloriously Bakery: If you are having any kind of special event in the greater New Jersey area and need a gluten-free cake, these are your people. I couldn’t sample most of the items because of the egg and dairy ingredients but everyone I saw walked away with a smile on their face. And I stood in awe at their gorgeous cake display for a good 10 minutes. I also learned that it’s all the rage these days for brides to have a fake fancy cake on display at their wedding and then serve a cheaper one in the kitchen. I just don’t get what has happened to weddings in our society…but that’s another thought for another time.

7) Wink Frozen Desserts: Cake batter, cinnamon roll, cafe latte; these were just a few of the flavors I sampled at Wink Frozen desserts display. Need I say more?? Well, I should add it’s made from pea protein and was initially planned to be a low-calorie frozen dessert (100 calories for a whole pint…good-bye tear-filled life chats over Ben and Jerry’s, ladies!) but has the amazing side benefit of being vegan and gluten-free! They aren’t in many stores yet but they’re coming to the Whole Foods New Jersey market this fall. Keep an eye out for them!

8) Some amazing authors: I won’t say much about these lovely ladies yet because I will be writing reviews of their new books later, but let me just say how inspiring they are to everyone at the fair. I just wanted to come home and bake up a storm. Also, Elena and her amazing illustrator, Eileen, are coming out with an allergy coloring book soon and it is AMAZING!!! I can’t wait for it to be published…I only wish I had thought of it myself! 🙂
I had a great time getting to know these lovely ladies!
I’ve only read a few pages of Amy’s book and I’m already inspired!

9) Gluten-Free Love: It was a week before the expo when I got an email. As if I wasn’t excited enough already, there was more.  A man named George had decided to propose to his gluten free girlfriend at one of her favorite events: you guessed it, the Gluten Free, Allergen-free Expo!!! We as bloggers were asked to help out by attending the demonstration where the big event would go down, and take all kinds of pictures and videos. In preparation, we had a picture of the happy couple so we’d know who to look for.  Well, all I have to say is that I’ve never been so nervous for someone I didn’t know in all my life. (To any potential spouses of my close friends, I’ve learned from this whole experience that I don’t want to know when you’re planning to propose…not because I’m afraid I’ll tell her, but moreso because it’s just too much for my sappy, romantic heart to handle. I actually prayed for this girl every night that week leading up to the Expo, and I hadn’t even met her yet!) I spent the whole demonstration watching this poor guy and then looking away so I wasn’t the creeper staring at a couple I didn’t even know.  And of course I did manage to learn quite a few tips from the awesome presenter, Amy. The proposal went off without a hitch, Martina said yes, a gluten-free cupcake appeared, and there were more tears than you can possibly imagine for perfect strangers (not my own…I may be a hopeless romantic, but I’m still not much of a crier). In a word: precious.

I think I watched these 2 during the presentation more than the cooking tips…
So much joy! And a gluten-free cupcake!
(She has Celiac…he does not; Love can conquer all!)

All in all, the Gluten And Allergen-Free Expo was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time. I highly recommend the weekend to anyone who has food allergies, or even if you don’t! They have fairs all over the country so check out their website…and if you want to start planning ahead, I’m sure I’ll be back in Secaucus next September. So save the date now to share in the fairy tale 🙂

My loot from the weekend!
Family Fun at the Expo! You know you want to join us next year!!

One thought on “For the First Time in Forever

  1. What a great review! I shared this with my blog friend Kim, who has several children with food allergies! Is it weird to say that I'm happy you have these allergies now? I say \”now\” because there are so many alternatives for you, but of course I would prefer your life to have less stress from not having allergies.You know what I mean.


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